2. Tips to fight everyday racism
As a company with employees from 47 different nations – a rising trend – it’s very important to us that everybody feels welcome here, no matter where they’re from. And we take it seriously when it comes to sharing knowledge about everyday racism. We take a stand for diversity. Not least because ethnicity and nationality are only a fraction of the many dimensions of diversity. We support the Charter of Diversity and strongly support the annual Diversity Month. But how can you do something against discrimination when you’re just one person?
Start by checking your own racism:
– If you’re white, be aware of your white privilege. It’s not about your skin colour per se, but the privileged standing that people who look like you hold in society. As a white person, chances are you’re part of the majority in your society (like here in Germany). You’re the default option being represented in the media, medicine and government (to name a few). Or, in the words of Courtney Ahn: “White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it means your skin tone isn’t one of the things making it harder!”
– The next time it’s on the tip of your tongue to ask someone where they come from or where they were born, think about whether you’d ask that to someone who looks more like you. Or, as our colleague Shashi puts it: “Be kind and assume that the person belongs exactly where they are.”
– If you still find yourself asking this question, accept the first answer you’re given. Even if it doesn’t match the answer you were expecting.
– If you see someone who’s the victim of everyday racism, don’t take it sitting down: Offer to help the person. The University of Cambridge has tips on how to be an active bystander (link: https://www.breakingthesilence.cam.ac.uk/prevention-support/be-active-bystander)
– Question the preconceptions and stereotypes about different ethnicities and cultures that you might be holding unconsciously.
– If someone lets you know that a comment you made was hurtful, take their feedback seriously and reflect on it. Hearing this from someone doesn’t mean that they think you’re a bad person. Use the situation as a chance to learn more about hidden racism that you weren’t previously aware of.
Background information: People will often react defensively to such comments. They themselves didn’t notice that their behaviour was racist, and it clashes with their self-perception (“I’m not racist!”), leading them to feel attacked. In the worst cases, the marginalised person is dismissed for being “too sensitive”, and expected to apologise for their opinion. Unfortunately, our colleagues have also personally run up against these kinds of psychological defence mechanisms. But being convinced that the everyday racism in one’s life is just an illusion can lead a marginalised person to doubt their own perceptions, as Shashi explained to us.
– Get informed: There are countless ways to confront everyday racism, whether in the form of workshops, podcasts, videos or articles and books.